Every once in a while something happens that cannot be explained. There should be regular occurrences in our ministries and lives of things with no explanation except that the Holy Spirit was involved. One such occasion happened just over six years ago. My family was in a state of transition. We knew moving was a big possibility for us, so I began asking God, “Should we stay or go?” “What’s next?” “ How will I know that it’s your voice and direction?” The only response I heard from God was, “Trust me and hold my hand!” That is very reassuring to say the least!
Without going into detail, within the next two weeks, First Assembly Memphis reached out to us for an interview to see if we may be interested in the student pastor position. Immediately, we were cautioned about Memphis.
“It’s the armpit of Tennessee.”
“You will need to purchase a gun.”
“It is not a great place to raise a family.”
I decided to at least give Memphis a chance, so I drove there, and as soon as I took Exit 16 onto Germantown Pkwy, something in my spirit shifted and I knew this was going to be home. Now to convince my wife! I asked her to go see a Wednesday night service with me and have lunch with Pastor and Sandi Lindberg. Amazingly, as soon as we took Exit 16, she said, “This feels like home!”
Six years later and we still love the 901 (greater Memphis area) and believe God is ready to pour out His Spirit! In Zechariah 2:1-5 (Don’t neglect the Minor Prophets!), it reads:
”Then I raised my eyes and looked, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand. So I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.” And there was the angel who talked with me, going out; and another angel was coming out to meet him, who said to him, “Run, speak to this young man, saying: ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls, because of the multitude of men and livestock in it. For I,’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ ”
Here are some thoughts I have as we all pray for the place God has called us to:
First, we need to lift our heads and look. God has something incredible in store for our cities, but we have to be expectantly looking and waiting for it. We must quit looking to people, culture, and things of this world for our inspiration and motivation, and start looking to God and His Word.
Second, to see. To see as Elisha’s servant finally saw, with spiritual eyes rather than natural eyes. To see the world through the lens of the Gospel rather than the Gospel through the lens of this world. Walt Disney, it is said, often saw things before they were a reality. We can believe this because we serve a God, “who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”
Third, we should believe for walls to be torn down. Most cities in this time period had walls surrounding the city. I believe our churches will be so full, the walls will not be able to contain the kingdom growth. I also know that there are many walls within Memphis that are built up. Race, income, social status and many more walls that are perhaps built up in your city as well. I dream of the day these walls are torn down. It won’t happen through good works and social justice. This only truly happens through kingdom progression.
Lastly, His glory will fall. I am not sure why God chooses one person over another, or one location over another to send His glory. My prayer is that God pours out His Spirit on the 901.
Here is my prayer for my city and a prayer you can pray for yours:
“Lord, let your churches be filled and overflowing. Let us see through your eyes, the hurting, unlovely and broken in Memphis. Tear down walls that would hinder anyone from coming to know You. Let salvation come to Memphis. Would You choose 901?”
Now is the time. Memphis is the place. Revival.
I have three children. One son, Israel and two daughters, Camille and Charlie. Charlie loves to have books read to her! The other day I found myself on the floor with her reading, re-reading, and reading again the same book for close to two hours. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. When you read something enough, it can start to get in you. I find myself thinking through the pages of this wonderful book at the most random times. I may be sitting in staff meeting thinking to myself that a lion says, “roar!” and an elephant is way too big to keep as a pet!
When we read through things we often see it the same way time and time again. I was reading this wonderful book to my daughter again the other night and had a momentary thought: “I wonder how she hears this?” What thoughts are going through her mind that make this so magical each time she hears it? The way that she looks, waiting for me to make my awful imitation of animal noises! The laughter that follows, and her insistence that I continue to the next page, pointing at every detail. I had a fleeting thought run through my mind that I have grabbed and tried to steward from that moment on: Do I read the Word of God in the same way? Do I listen intently, waiting to see what is next? Do I have the same enthusiasm that my 3 year old daughter has for a book about zoo animals? This is the Word of God! Should we not be more intrigued and engrossed in this than anything else?
I want to be like Mary, not Martha, who sits at the Masters feet, listening as I can now imagine, to Jesus speaking truth and sharing His wonderful parables. I picture her face to be the same as my daughter's. A sparkle in her eye and an eagerness in her smile as she hangs on every word.
I am reminded of Josiah's first encounter with the Word of God in 2 Kings 22:11 "Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes." He in turn shared this with the nation and we see one of the greatest revivals take place in the Bible. This at the simple speaking of the Word of God.
There was nothing elegant that was being said or proclaimed in either scenario. This was not as much about the posture of the giver of the Word as it is about the posture of the receiver of the Word. The Word of God profited them. In Hebrews 4:2 it says, "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it."
Does the Word of God profit you?
How often do we read in the wrong posture, so we therefore "get nothing out of it." His Word doesn't return void, but we can definitely not gain from it if our posture is wrong. Think about this: In the parable of the talents, the last man was not thrown out for receiving the talent, rather for receiving the talent and not gaining profit from it. It would be a shame to come this far and miss out on all that God has for us, because of our posture before him. The only position that really matters is the one you are in before His throne.
Does the Word of God excite you?
Here are some ideas to help kick-start a Bible reading regime that will excite you!
1. Find a good devotional. Try a plan on the You Version app.
2. Read slowly with a pen in your hand. Write in the margins or get a journal.
3. Study a specific Person in the Bible. Read what commentaries have to say about them.
4. Study a specific Topic in the Bible. Work your way through every passage about it.
5. SOAP - Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer. Keep it simple and start with less.
6. Pray back scripture. Put everything in "first person."
Remember, consistency trumps quantity!
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Genesis 6:5-8 (NKJV)
I have always loved maps as a kid. To be completely honest, I would not be upset if someone bought me a brand new Rand McNally road atlas (only $15 on Amazon!). Something about the roads, paths, directions, and populations struck a chord in me and still does. As we would take long road trips for vacation each summer, I would be the guide. Along the way, I would take note of the cities we would go through. In what quadrant are they located? How far away do we have left once we are in this or that city? What is the population?
Have you ever wondered about the population of the earth before God sent the flood? Because of this curiosity within me, I thought it would be fun to see. According to Google (where you go for all your information needs), if the growth rate were the same as it was in the year 2000, there would have been 750 million people living at that time! The number goes up to around 4 billion when you consider the age at which people died pre-flood.
That's it. One man found grace. Whether the number is 750 million (more than twice the population of the U.S.) or 4 billion, this idea is still staggering. And even more so when you see that Noah was righteous, but still needed grace.
We see a scenario similar to this one played out several times in scripture:
- Abraham pleading for Sodom in Genesis 18:32 "Would you destroy it for the sake of ten?"
- The Lord looking for someone who might stand in the gap in Ezekiel "...but I found no one."
With the passing of Billy Graham recently, I have stopped many times to think if there is a man or woman who might stand in the gap for the sake of America?
I wonder if we could be found righteous and shown grace to save a generation? And if that is the case, would we even be willing to build or do something? Or perhaps we would go the opposite direction as Jonah did when Nineveh needed him most.
So, what's your Ark?
What dream has God put inside you that could save a generation?